4G-ing ahead?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A recent report from In-stat suggested that the much touted 4G technologies will take a while to roll-out. The time-frame predicted is between 2010 and 2012. Though the companies are battling it out to choose between Ultra-mobile Broadband (UMB), Long-term evolution (LTE) and WiMax, this time-frame suggests a rather slow deployment rate. This is not too surprising for some reasons as listed below -
  • The carriers are yet to monetize on the infra-structure they have built so far. So, even if they attempt to vigorously promote 4G, the investors are unlikely to authorize another 50 billion dollars for new OFDMA based infra-structure.
  • 3G is just getting popular, especially in the U.S. For example, AT&T (T) is slowly adding cities to its WCDMA roll-out. 4G will have to wait since a lot of these carriers are thus committed to 3G.
  • New carriers need to pick from the available candidates for core technology. Each is plagued by unique issues and the choice is thus not obvious. WiMax has mobility issues, UMB is solely QualComm's technology and the wireless value chain will be vary of this and infact want to avoid it.
  • LTE has just been completed as a standard and there are reports that most stumbling blocks of the Physical layer have been ironed out. QualComm (QCOM) and Ericsson are the only companies developing prototypes. All others are either struggling with their HSDPA or HSUPA solutions and are not even close to HSPA+, leave alone LTE. Not many have the deep pockets to run parallel tracks like these two giants can afford to.
  • Extensive field-testing has not been done with any of these technologies. Field testing, as many will agree, can spawn its own cycle of debug and development. And this will affect the availability of the devices even if the 700MHz spectrum and its winners are waiting with open hands.
So, while 4G holds a lot of promise and optimism, there are basic arguments that will prevent its quick deployment, no matter how fast it touts itself to be.

Posted by Vijay Nagarajan at 11:15 PM  

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